The only thing that’s important is that ember. This is what you and I are here to do.
Rebuild the fire.
Though we’ve lived our life totally involved in the whirlwind of this hyper connected world.
We know that it’s the ember of passion and purpose that is the most important. If we continue to nurture the ember. The ember gets stronger, and the flame starts to flicker a bit.
You give the flame a bit of fuel and it grows. And as you’re rebuilding the fire. Soon you realize that the most important thing in your life is sitting around this fire. Aligning your life around the fire of your passion and purpose.
The fire is your “Big Why” and it will determine the trajectory for the rest of your life. It will cast light on what is not serving you and motivate you to do the hardest things you’ve ever done to realize your true potential.
Let’s begin building that fire.
Finding comes by doing
Because, before we get into all the other practical tools you need something to get you going first. It doesn’t help if I blast you with all kinds of tools when I haven’t even addressed your lack of motivation to just get started!
It’s like having a huge studio full of brushes, paint, canvas and everything you need to create whatever you want. But, you never use it, because you’re still lacking the one thing that will get you off the couch and into the studio.
You could have all the art supplies in the world, all the time in the world and people begging for you to paint something so they can pay you and yet, none of it matters. Because you’re stuck on the couch with no motivation to even start. What matters most, is having the motivation to, just, do, the, work!
Building motivation over the long term is like a snowball rolling down the hill. We gotta get it started first, get you off the couch, so that it can build into a boulder that never stops.
That being said. I hope that you’ve watched the first video, set a minimum, and are celebrating some micros wins of creativity.
Also, you can download 100 ideas for daily minimums here.
Remember, we are on a thousand mile journey and you can’t start that journey without taking the first step.
If you’ve set a minimum and have made some progress, no matter how small we can now get into finding your ember of interest and carefully coaxing it into a huge bonfire of passion and purpose, your “Big Why”, so it can fuel all your creative endeavors for the rest of your life.
Finding your “Big Why” (the reason why you create, the source of your passion) takes an active approach not a passive one. You’re not going to be sitting on the couch one day and suddenly have an epiphany that launches you into action.
The action comes first. The epiphany comes by DOING!
Your Big Why changes as you change
This is extremely important to understand because your “Big Why” is elusive. One day you have it and your motivation goes through the roof, then the next day you lose it. You think THIS IS IT! I’ve found it! Then after a week or so, you realize that it’s not quite it. It’s close, but not it. So you drop down to your minimum and keep searching. Keep experimenting.
Your “Big Why” grows with you. It’s not static. I wish it were that easy. But it’s not. As you go through life learning and changing your passion changes with you.
For example, if you’re passionate about painting abstract landscapes and then you have a huge life event, like having your first child. You’re now a completely different person. Before there was you with no children and in the next moment that person died and was reborn as you with a child. The whole world has changed!
But not really. What really has changed is your concept of the world. How you think about everything, how you perceive everything. Now those abstract landscapes don’t interest you any longer. Now you’re “Big Why” is central to your child and your art must adapt accordingly.
This is why finding your “Big Why” is an active approach.
I urge you to look at artists’ history. Look at their work chronologically. You will see when they have had these massive changes in their life. My favorite is Van Gogh, in Paris, around 1887. Before then most of his paintings were muted and devoid of saturated color. Then he ended up in the middle of Paris when the science of color was vehemently debated between artists and POW! COLOR! Color so intense that at the time it scared people. HAHA.
Van Gogh before.
Van Gogh after.
So your “Big Why” changes as you change. But, what if you don’t even know your “Big Why”? Well, we need to dig into the ashes and find an ember. Because it’s there. In fact you have many embers. We just need to do the work to find them.
I’m going to show you how.
What is motivation?
First let’s break down what exactly motivation is. Motivation is the feeling that we get when we are driven to do stuff.
That excitement you feel when you can’t wait to get started. Like a brand new toy when you were young, or that awesome video game you can’t wait to play or meeting the one you love for a night out.
Imagine having those feelings, but towards your art.
To get there you need to cultivate your interests into passion. What you’re interested in, IS the ember in the ashes. We need to do a little bit of digging to find those embers. Once we do we can combine those embers into passion.
This is where motivation starts. With things you’re simply interested in. But interested enough to want to do something about it. Not just gaining information. Like being interested in seeing what’s on TV or what your favorite band is doing. These interests are not powerful enough to get you moving.
A more potent interest is when you’re so interested you think, I would like to take some classes or I would like to buy some watercolor materials, or read a book about. That is the kind of interest I’m talking about. The kind that gets you moving.
If you can collect all the things you’re interested in, combine those into passion then take that passion and help others. Well, now you’re cooking with gas, this is your “Big Why” and the motivation, energy and drive you get from it is boundless. This is the kind of emotional connection with your work that will propel you to move mountains if you have to.
Step 1: Finding your interests
Let’s get practical and start discovering all the things you’re interested in with this simple exercise. Simple, but not super easy. If done right it will take some time. It took me two weeks to get through the exercise but afterwards I had more clarity than I’ve ever had.
OH! I want to say that I didn’t come up with this on my own. This was inspired by the amazing book. The Art of Impossible by Stephen Kotler. I would highly recommend you read his words on the subject if this resonates with you so far.
Back to the simple but not easy exercise. Make a list of everything you’re interested in. Remember it needs to be significant. Not, “I wonder how this color looks next to this color” or “I wonder if this ten thousandth digital brush looks cool”. By interested I mean something that you’re willing to spend days, weeks, or years trying to figure out.
For example, I’m interested in how to make the human body glow from within using oil paint.
Or using Ai to inspire my art.
Or, figuring out how to draw from memory like Kim Jung Gi.
Kim Jung Gi 1975-2022. We lost a master in 2022.
That’s a great example and another way to find what you’re really interested in. Find your favorite artist. One that you would give anything to have the skill they have.
Other examples could be… “I wonder what it would take to be as great as the top digital artists on Artstation?”. Or, “I love this game art, what do I need to do to make the same art for games?”. These are interests that are going to have you doing research, attending classes, watching videos and taking notes, etc…
List 25 Things You're Interested In
So, step 1 is to make a list of these interests. Write down at least 25. After the first 5 or 10 you put down, the rest will be really hard to come up with. This will require you to really think about what you enjoy or love, or already spend a lot of time on as it is.
I’ve created a PDF that you can download for free to help you through the process. Just print it out and start at step one by writing down your 25 interests. Use the form below.
Use the “Big Why” worksheet to find your interests, combine those into passion and super charge them with purpose.
When I first did this it took me about two weeks to come up with 25. Take your time. There is a really good possibility that you will be building the beginning of passion that will last the rest of your life.
That’s step one. Stop there.
Stop reading. Just stop.
That’s right. Don’t go any further in the video. This is enough. Go download the worksheet and DO THIS! PLEASE!!
Only when you have completed this exercise should you come back to the next steps. I don’t care about SEO, my rankings on YouTube or how many subscribers I can get from this. What I care about is making a difference in your life and if I overwhelm you with too much up front that will kill any small amount of motivation you do have.
So, please please please do this exercise and come back in however long it takes.
Okay I’m back. How did the exercise go? Do you have your list of 25 things you’re interested in?
If you didn’t do the exercise and just kept watching then I apologize for not inspiring you enough to take action.
But, If you put in some effort and have come up with 15 to 20 that’s fine.
We can work with that. Throw some of them into the comments! I would love to see it! I’ll even help you use them in the next step!
Step 2: Finding intersections
Take that list and find connections between your interests. Find interests that intersect in some way.
Let’s say you’re interested in oil painting because you love the style of Richard Schmid and want to paint like him. But you’re also interested in designing characters for online games. So what would it look like if you combine the two? Game characters designed in a painterly style like Richard Schmid?
League of Legends
Both Styles Combined
Maybe one of your interests is way outside the art world. Let’s say you love cycling and you do it competitively but you’ve always wanted to paint in oils. Maybe you start paintings of cyclists in oil.
If that sounds too far-fetched, take a look at Karl Kapenski’s work. He’s done that exact thing. I got a link down there for you.
The purpose of this exercise is to turn your interests into something greater. Passion.
This is what passion is. A combination of multiple things you’re interested in or love to do.
We’re not going to depend on one thing you’re interested in. We’re going to stack as many as we can together by finding how they can intersect. This is going to take some creative thinking. But we’re artists right! We can do that!
Here are some examples of what I came up with.
A few of my interests are…
- I’m fed up with seeing artists put down art for years and losing sight of their passion. I want to do something about it!
- How to show Translucency in skin through oil paint. I want to see life under the skin. I want my figure paintings to be more alive than the model.
- Look at Artstation and other illustration sites to get some ideas on creating dynamic figure paintings. Motive and composition first.
- How to create a dynamic and striking painting of a figure that illustrates passion.
- How to build a composition that motivates people.
- Research the history of Kehinde Wiley and how he achieved fame then copy.
- I hate the decline of natural places on our one earth but I don’t want to create art that constantly speaks about the destruction of the planet. I want to motivate others through positive means.
- Combine landscapes and figures in paintings with a message on conservation.
- How to bring a conservation message into my art work.
Then I combined them into these two sentences that described my passions well when I created the list.
“Figure paintings full of life, based on a positive motive, dynamic and striking compositions with a narrative that motivates others into action.”
“A series of figure paintings full of life, within a landscape that has a positive conservation message, with dynamic and striking compositions similar to artists I love on Artstation.”
I hope those examples help!
Take some time with this and when you’re done finding those intersections write them down on the worksheet I provided so you can review them regularly. Because these passions could be the wellspring from where all your motivation flows.
Okay, you’ve made it this far. That is step 2. You know the drill.
Stop watching, reading, whatever, and do exercise 2 on the worksheet. This one will not take as long, I promise.
I hope you have at least one paragraph written about your intersecting interests. If so, share them! I would love to see what your passions are!
Now let’s get on to step 3.
Step 3: Supercharge with purpose
This is by far the hardest in many cases. We need to take those passions and supercharge them with purpose.
How do you do that?
You make your passions about more than yourself. For example, you create the game character in a painterly style specifically for teens that suffer from abuse. Or the oil paintings of cyclists you did were done specifically to be auctioned off and most of the money go to a charity you care deeply about.
Why is this motivating? Because you’re already passionate about what you’re doing and now you have a whole bunch of other people that are rooting you on as well. Plus you’ve seen how something you love to do can improve the lives of others.
It’s all about stacking! I already enjoy doing this. How can I throw more fuel on that flame? Do it to benefit others!
This is passion supercharged into purpose.
My previous examples already have hints of purpose in them. Motivating others. Helping the planet. Maybe your list of interests already contains gems of purpose as well.
If not, here are some more ideas.
- How to use your art to help children overcome an abusive past?
- How to use your art to help your local community come together for a community garden?
Do you see the power here? Imagine you’ve created something and changed someone else’s life for the better!
As you can imagine this is not something you do overnight. This whole system is not something that happens overnight. Again, take your time. Maybe just get your interest aligned into what you now think is your passion and test it. Try it out for a while. Experiment and adjust. Use the worksheet I provided multiple times to really figure this out.
But, one thing you must always do with this exercise is…
Step 4: Write it down!
Write it down somewhere where you look at it every single day. Use the worksheet to come up with your Big Why but after that write it somewhere big and bold so you see it every day.
Not just a post-it note on your computer screen among 50 others. You’re an artist, get a big sheet of newsprint, tape it to your wall, and fill it with the biggest text you can fit. Then put it where you see it every morning. Wake up to that huge reminder.
You may think that you will never forget what you’re passionate about but don’t underestimate the whirlwind of life. It can blow all your plans right off the table and years down the road you’ll find them in a closet somewhere and regret that you forgot the dreams you worked so hard to cultivate.
I review my passions and purpose every single morning and make sure that days and weeks are aligned towards them. When I find myself struggling to stay motivated, it’s super helpful to take a step back and remind myself why I’m doing all this.
So write it down somewhere you will see it every day.
Bonus: Your “Big Why” is also filtrational
Because when you take a stand and say I’m going to be this, I’m going to do this. You’re also saying, I’m NOT going to be that, I’m NOT going to do that because it doesn’t serve what I want to achieve.
It makes it easier to say no as well.
“Hey can you draw me this thing?” Sorry, no, that’s not my thing. This is MY thing.
“Hey you want to stay up late tonight playing video games or going to the club.” No, thanks for asking, but I have this really awesome project I’m working on and I need great sleep tonight so I can get up early and rock it.
One last thing
Your “big why” is not a list of goals. Your “big why” is what creates the list of goals. Your “big why” is what gets you up early in the morning because you can’t wait to get started. It’s your guiding light for everything you do.
If you are reading or watching this right now and you’re also looking at a huge to-do list or goal list. You may want to see if all those items match up with your Big Why. Maybe you’ll remove some, maybe you’ll add some.
Remember your big why is also filtrational. It will not only give you the motivation to be creative every day but it will also get you to cut out anything and everything that is keeping you from being creative every day.
Okay, 4 steps to finding your Big Why to get motivated or amplify your current motivation.
- Finding your purpose comes by doing, so get on those minimums.
- Your Big Why changes as you change. Embrace the flow and discovery in your life.
- Motivation begins with what you’re interested in. We compound those for passion and supercharge with purpose by using our passion to help others.
- 4 steps to finding your big why are:
- Download the worksheet.
- List 25 things you’re interested in enough to get you moving.
- Find the intersections between those interests.
- Take those interests and augment them by making them about more than yourself.
- Write it down and review daily.
- Lastly, this is not about a todo list. This is the heart of passion that creates your todo list, goals list and trajectory of your life.
Once again I hope this video and article helps you in some way. My purpose is to help other artists become better versions of themselves and one day achieve their dreams.
Please contact me if you have any questions or need help with anything art related. I personally respond to everyone.